What should someone do if stopped and/or arrested for driving while intoxicated?

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Answered by: Jessica, An Expert in the Your Rights Category
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) laws vary from state to state, but everyone has basic rights, guaranteed by both their respective states and the federal Constitution, that determine the basic scope of a DWI/DUI investigation regardless of geography.

There are some basic things to keep in mind if you are ever pulled over or arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. First, you are never under any obligation to answer any questions from law enforcement. You should communicate your refusal to answer questions in a polite and respectful manner and you should provide the officer with any identifying documents that she requests; but you should exercise your right to remain silent and politely refuse to answer any of the officer's questions.



Second, you have a right to refuse to submit to field sobriety tests, such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus exam where the officer will ask you to follow a small light or her finger while he looks into your eyes. Other field sobriety tests, such as tests that require you to walk along a straight line or balance on one leg while counting, are designed to determine whether you are sufficiently impaired by alcohol that your brain is unable to divide its attention between more than one task. You are under no legal obligation to complete such tests and should, in fact, refuse to submit to any such field sobriety tests.

Even if you refuse to answer questions and decline to do any field sobriety exams, the officer may still believe that she has sufficient probable cause to arrest you. After someone has been arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, the next step in the law enforcement investigation is normally to determine their blood alcohol content. Police officers will typically use a machine called a "breathalyzer" or they will obtain a blood sample to send to the lab for blood alcohol analysis.



Whatever the method of chemical analysis, it is normally advisable to submit to the requested exam, as refusal can often lead to greater consequences. It is also important to remember, however, that you have the right to conduct your own chemical analysis of your blood alcohol content. So you can request that a second blood sample be drawn or, if the law enforcement agency uses a breathalyzer in its driving while intoxicated investigations, you can request to be taken to an appropriate medical facility so that a blood sample can be obtained for independent testing.

It's important to remember, at every phase of the investigation from the initial traffic stop to the arrest, that you should never voluntarily answer the officer's questions. Your words cannot be used against you if you steadfastly maintain your right to keep silent. It's also important to know that driving while intoxicated is a serious charge that can carry severe consequences, including expensive fines, significant jail time and can potentially negatively impact your job or professional status. If you are charged with driving while intoxicated, you should always consult a reliable and experienced attorney as soon as possible.

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